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Port Lincoln Times (SA : 1927 - 1965; 1992 - 2002), Thursday 21 December 1978, page 4

What's in a (Town's) Name?

The Origin of South Australian Town Names

by JEAN SCHMAAL

Clare Branch, National Trust

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NAMES are important in the histories of families or countries.

  • Often we have neglected to label important places effectively through sheer laziness.

  • At other times the utilitarian side of attaching names has been unimaginatively overdone.

  • It was natural enough for the first European settlers, nostalgic for anything to remind them of familiar and no doubt dear to the heart places of the lands they had left behind them, to perpetuate these names in their new homeland.

Many place names have been handed down to us to remind us that most of our forebears came from England, Ireland or Scotland.

  • Strange to say, though many ethnic groups other than German made South Australia their new home, they seem to have made little or no attempt to attach their names to places.

  • One exception is MARINO, from the Italian "marina," meaning seashore.

  • In many places European settlers retained Aboriginal names, much to the delight of later generations who can appreciate musical, rhythmic names.

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Let's look at some Aboriginal place names which have survived.

My favorite among them is YANKALILLA.

  • Governor Hindmarsh mentioned the word in an early dispatch.

  • He wrote: "There is a place with the sweetest sounding name I know. The Aborigines call it Yankalilla."

  • Though the native people left no written record of their language, we are fortunate that two Dresden Lutheran Missionary Pastors (Teichelmann and Schurmann) spent some years in the Encounter Bay area, and they compiled a short dictionary of the Raminjeri tribe which inhabited that area.

  • It seems that the words Nganka-alya-illa became corrupted over the years to Yankalilla, and the meaning of the word is far removed from the sweetness mentioned by Hindmarsh.

It relates to the sad old story of the native woman who, abducted from the Cape Jervis area (Raminjeri territory) and taken by degenerate European sealers to Kangaroo Island, swam Backstairs Passage, a baby tied to her back, only to die on re-reaching the mainland, where her body was later found.

  • Her tribesmen named the locality to mean "the place of the woman's tragedy."

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The Aboriginal name for Adelaide was TANDAYNA

("the place of the big kangaroo").

Someone with a sense of history not long ago applied that colorful name to a tall block of flats in North Adelaide — a happy gesture, indeed.

Other fascinating names in everyday use are

GOOLWA ("the elbow");

MENINGIE ("Mud Bank");

MILANG ("place of sorcery");

CAR-RICKALINGA ("place of gathering red gum for firewood");

ONKA-PARINGA ("women's camp by the river").

The area about Murray Bridge was originally known as MOOP-POL-THA-WONG ("a haven or sanctuary for birds").

  • In early years the swamps bordering the river- were a veritable haven for many thousands of birds — swans, pelicans, egrets, etc.

  • They were so numerous that when they rose from the swamp the sound made by their wings was like thunder.

  • ​Reclamation of the swamps of course, wrote finish to that chapter and the birds have almost vanished.

  • Posterity, however, has not ignored them. The old native name has been brought into the present in the' form of MOBILONG, the name adopted by the local District Council.

On today's Yorke Peninsula we have:

  • MOON-TA ("impenetrable scrub");

  • KADINA ("lizard plain); whilst

  • WALLAROO came from the native WADLA-WARU, and therein lies an intriguing tale of the past.

    • ​Local Aborigines (down-to-earth people) named the place
      WADLA-WARU. It meant wallaby's urine.

    • European settlers twisted that into WALLAWAROO.

    • This, however, was considered to be too long for the stamping of wool bales, and so the name was cut down to its present form, WALLAROO.

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These names conjure up a picture of a countryside that was vastly different then from what it is today.

  • Coming nearer home we find that the name for Clare was KYEETCHA;

  • the River Hutt was called PARRIWORTA, for which translations have not been found.

  • "Paddy" Gleeson, the Father of Clare, attached names of his birthplace to local areas with a grand gesture of Irish enthusiasm, and gave little thought to the district's original inhabitants.

  • A later generation, however, has remembered the indigenous people in the naming of Ngadjuri Lodge, a retirement village in the town.

Read more: 

Other fascinating names of -nearby places are

  • NURI0OTPA ("the country," from a legend concerning the neck of a great being);

  • TEROWIE ("hidden waterhole");

  • CALTOWIE ("pool belonging to the sleepy lizards");

  • MINTARO ("place of netted water," where nets were used to snare game);

  • MANOORA ("spring of water'.');

  • EUDUNDA ("sheltered or hidden water");

  • KOORINGA ("creek with she-oaks"), all giving due reference to precious waterholes and springs.

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Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Tuesday 20 November 1917, page 7

THE WHITE MAN'S BURDEN:
Queen Monarto

[By T. P. Bellchambers]

Old Queen Monarto was as much at home in the water as on the land.

She must have been a good age by her looks, but she was very active and wary.

She was a well known character on the Lower Murray, and had to her credit so I have heard, the saving from drowning of three lives.

 

... Again (and again) she dived, lithe and supple as an otter, with head down, both feet working on the surface, she followed along the steep shelving bank, hauling the crayfish from their holes, and coming up at intervals to place those captured in her bag and refill her lungs with air.

 

Queen Monarto was a full blood, and had lost her husband. I do not think she left any descendents. Poor old Monarto got blood poisoning through treading on a rusty nail, and died neglected and miserable in a wurly opposite Mannum.

Whilst dwelling on the desirability of retaining some of these colorful and . musical native names, however, one must bear in mind that these were from many different languages spoken among these people. 

 

A word, beautiful in one area, may be a bird of quite a different feather in another.

  • Take, for instance, the name LAMEROO.
    The story goes that when the matter of putting a name to the little settlement came up, there was a gathering of local settlers, and among them was a visitor from the Northern Territory.

  • And, in the nature of many meetings, a stalemate arose, and a name could not be agreed upon.

 

The man from the North came up with a. suggestion. "Not far from where I live there is a particularly beautiful little beach. The natives call it Lameroo, and that's a pleasant sounding word.

  • How'd that go?" As a result it was agreed that the name be accepted and sent to the appropriate authorities. In due course the area adopted the name LAMEROO.

  • Too late it was discovered that, whilst Lameroo meant one thing in the distant North, in the language of the local Aborigines it had an entirely different meaning, and that one quite obscene.

  • The damage was done, however. The name had been approved and gazetted and so it stands to this day.

 

The Directory of South Australia for 1919 bears mute "evidence of the sweeping changes made during the First World War to the old Teutonic names which had been bestowed by early German settlers.

There we were at war -with Germany and wide areas of countryside bore "enemy place names," as they were called.

In the frenzy of war-time hatred, the old names were swept away.

 

At that time, a Member of Parliament demanded to know why the very German name TANUNDA had been allowed to remain.

He was promptly told that far from the name being of enemy origin, it was in fact Aboriginal; it meant "many birds upon a creek."

In the midst of all the fervor of changing place names the powers-that-be overlooked the most important of them all: ADELAIDE itself was German;

it had been named after a German princess, Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV.

 

It is a happy thought that many Aboriginal place names have been retained; it is an equally happy thought that others are still being applied today.

MONARTO is a place name in point. It commemorates the name of an Aboriginal woman, Monarto, who lived in the district over a century ago. She was a woman of considerable character and leadership, especially in her later years.

Whilst dwelling on the desirability of retaining some of these colorful and  musical native names, however, one must bear in mind that these were from many different languages spoken among these people. 

It is a happy thought that many Aboriginal place names have been retained; it is an equally happy thought that others are still being applied today.

  • MONARTO is a place name in point. It commemorates the name of an Aboriginal woman, Monarto, who lived in the district over a century ago. She was a woman of considerable character and leadership, especially in her later years.

  • The Hundred of Monarto, from which the town took its name, was named after an aboriginal woman, "Queen Monarto", who lived in the area at the time of its proclamation.

 

Not all Aboriginal titles are easy on the ear.

  • It takes a history enthusiast to appreciate some of them.

  • Yet they help to preserve a heritage, and if the strangeness of the sounds provokes queries by future generations they will have served their purpose adequately.

  • They certainly add color to our nomenclature and give Australian place-naming an identity all its own.

 

What's in a name? In some instances considerably more than appears at first glance.

Aboriginal people have a great sense of humor and their great grandfathers were no exception.

They were not above playing a prank on the unsuspecting European settler when he asked the name of a place. 

Later translations have brought many a "rude" awakening!

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